Animé and Toons
All Star Superman
By Chris Zimmerman
February 15, 2011 - 09:38

Writer(s): Dwayne McDuffie
ISBN: 1-4198-9976-7
$24.98 US
Starring: James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony LaPaglia
Directed by: Sam Liu
Produced by: Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett
Running Time: 76 minutes
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Distributors: Warner Home Video



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Often times in comics, when a character has run its course, they are either killed or retired until a writer comes along with a new approach to them. While this does not yet apply to Superman (though the character has been killed off before), it is disheartening that arguably the greatest superhero ever conceived is becoming less interesting with every new arc. Many have complained the character isn’t identifiable and thus lacks the ability to connect with the audience. As a result, many writers retreat back to his origin, modifying it in some fashion as a means to revamp the character for the modern reader. All Star Superman tells the origin in three frames, in around six seconds, then moves on to tell one of the most fun, heartfelt, tragic, terrifying, and genuinely beautiful tales ever written about the character.

Adapted from Grant Morrison’s seminal work of the same name, All Star Superman doesn’t seek to redefine the character but rather remind us of his strengths and the reason he endured for over seventy years. Blending larger than life ideas with the classic mythology, the film seeks to bring everything that has contributed to the character under one umbrella.

The film begins with the aforementioned origin, spliced amidst scenes of peril as an astronaut crew finds itself in the clutches of Lex Luthor’s latest scheme. Predictably, Superman arrives to save the day, in the process fulfilling his archrival’s goal of creating a death trap that successfully exposes Superman to more radiation than even his body can handle. His strength is multiplied and he demonstrates new powers but it all comes with a cost; Superman’s body is breaking down and the once invulnerable hero is slowly meeting his end.
Resolved to his fate, Superman makes a bucket list of things to do before he passes on. He reveals his secret to Lois and even plans out a special birthday. He meets with Lex Luthor, both as Clark Kent and as Superman, trying to steer his enemy to the side of good one last time.

Lex Luthor is played up as a distorted image of Superman, showing that he is just as brilliant, and claiming that he too wants to help the people. While Superman loves mankind, Lex demonstrates an appreciation for the common man only because they aren’t Superman. Also of interest is the knotting of their stories. Both Lex and Superman are destined to die; Lex by the electric chair and Superman by Luthor’s hands and both have lingering goals they wish to fulfill before the end.

The animation is among the strongest efforts to come from DC’s animation department. The studio has had many years to hone it’s craft, starting with the much celebrated Batman the Animated Series and carrying on into several other series before settling on films. While it can’t touch Disney in terms of production, it stands head and shoulders above that of the animated drivel fed to us over the TV.
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The Blu-ray comes with a substantial amount of bonus features. First up is the audio commentary. It’s so nice that one was actually included here, given that many of the past releases lack one. There are a couple of featurettes detailing the transition of the comic to the screen, with interviews and sketches focusing on the source material. Also of note is the inclusion of the first issue of the comic from which the movie is based. Sadly there is no animated short to be found.

For fans of the comic or the character, All Star Superman is a must see. While its foot is planted firmly in silver age ideas, its take on the character is very much real and even darker than the norm. In a way, the film humanizes the hero, showing him to be flawed in certain aspects, such as his jealousy when Lois is courted by two other super beings. The film is a breeze to sit through in part thanks to its pacing, feeling closer to individual tales with a common thread spun throughout.

For those disenchanted with the character, whether because of the lack of compelling stories or the polarizing live action film series, All Star Superman provides a brilliant story interweaved with everything that makes the character great, proving that a limitless imagination is all that is required to write Superman.   

A




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